The lost art of real acting in critically acclaimed films

By Benjamin Linares

Acting never used to be about money. Good actors were good actors, end of story. Today, Hollywood is self-absorbed and actors act for one reason: money. Last week, Jonah Hill stated that he was paid a meager $60,000 to perform in Martin Scorsese’s Wolf of Wall Street. Now, there is no debating, $60,000 is a lot of money, but by Hollywood standards, it is nothing. Mr. Hill said he did not care how much he was paid; he just wanted the opportunity to act for world-renowned director Scorsese.

Jonah Hill was fantastic in Wolf, so much so that he has been nominated for numerous awards. Hill’s decision harkens back to a time when acting was an art, not an extremely high paying, sometimes over-rated, occupation that pays egregious sums of money to sub-standard actors and actresses. I congratulate and respect Jonah Hill for making a decision that will further the art of performing.

Several other actors, actresses, and Hollywood notables have also given fantastic performances, created life-changing art and cinema for next to nothing. In 2009, Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker, won the Oscar for best picture.

A new, up-and-coming actor, Jeremy Renner, had the star role as Sergeant First Class William James, an adrenaline junkie and combat powerhouse, working for the US military disarming bombs in the Iraq war. Renner’s performance was as adrenaline pumped as his character, and because of this Renner received an Academy Award nomination for best actor. He was paid $65,000.

In 1972, Francis Ford Coppola created his world-renowned film, The Godfather. Not only was it chock full of stars, its script was beautifully written dialogue that would make for epic cinematic scenes. Two of its stars, Al Pacino and Diane Keaton were paid just $65,000 each.

Today, that is upwards of about $250,000, but compared to Tom Cruise’s $12,000,000 salary, it still speaks volumes.

I hold my greatest praise for director Steven Spielberg, when he directed Schindler’s List, in my opinion, one of the best movies to come across an American screen, he refused to take a salary or royalties for any showing of the film.

Spielberg said he felt as though, “it would be blood money,” profiting from the acts of a heinous dictatorship, the German Nazis. All he wanted was credit for making the film and for others to be aware of both past and present events. Spielberg deserves an award for his compassion and gravitas, clearly the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences agreed with me, having showered Spielberg and Schindler’s List with seven Academy Awards including best picture and best director.

Acting, directing, and making movies is about telling a story, not reaping enormous salaries or royalties. Hollywood should make more low-budget films and big-name actors and actresses should lend their names and talent to these low-budget pictures.

After all, sometimes what these films yield is pure art. The art of acting, as it used to be.